Light sensitive films to measure light microenvironment




This protocol describes the method of measuring light environment using light sensitive films.


The light sensitive film (Optleaf, Taisei E&L, Tokyo, Japan) fades and changes the transmittance of light in proportion to the amount of accumulated light absorbed, with maximum absorption wavelength of 521 nm. The applicability and limitation of using this film are probably similar to those of traditional diazo paper methods (Friend 1961, Bardon et al. 1995), although effects of sunflecks have not been evaluated so far. Because of the simple methodology, various recent studies have used this film to investigate light environment (Hikosaka et al. 2001, Osada et al. 2001, 2002, Osada et al. 2004a, Osada et al. 2004b, Onoda et al. 2007, Osada et al. 2010).


  • Film Optleaf R-3D (Taisei E&L, Tokyo, Japan; 35 mm in width and 10 m in length)
  • A portable spectrometerD-meter RYO-470 (Taisei E&L, Tokyo, Japan) (or other spectrophotometers)


Step 1 Cut the film and write sequential number by waterproof pen at the edge of film pieces to distinguish each piece

Step 2 Measure initial value of light transmittance for each piece of film by the portable spectrometer

Step 3 Keep the film pieces in dark places (such as in small envelopes) until measurements

Step 4 Attach the film pieces on the surface of individual leaves (or places of measurements) by using clips, staples, or double-sided adhesive tapes (Fig. 1)

Step 5 Check the number of film pieces and their positions, i.e. which piece was set to each position of measurement

Step 6 At the same time, several film pieces and quantum sensors with data loggers are set at the positions of various light environments (from open places to shaded places) to construct calibration equation

Step 7 Wait about 3-7 days, depending on climate, ambient temperature, and light environments

Step 8 Collect the film pieces and quantum sensors, and keep the pieces in dark places such as in small envelopes, and bring them back to the lab

Step 9 Measure final values of light transmittance for each film piece

Step 10 Calculate fading rates of films from light transmittance before and after exposure

Step 11 Construct calibration equation to estimate photon flux density from the fading rate of films (Fig. 2)

Fig. 1. An example picture for measuring light microenvironment of individual leaves of Fagus japonica by using light sensitive films.

Fig. 2. Calibration lines to estimate PFD from fading rate of the film. The lines differ significantly between summer and winter in Kyoto, Japan (summer, r = 0.99; winter, r = 0.98).

Other resources

See also: PROTOCOL: Integrated paper sensors for quantification of photosynthetically active radiation


Taisei E&L, Tokyo, Japan
TEL +81-3-3691-3112, FAX +81-3-3691-3035

Literature references

Bardon RED, Countryman W, Hall RB (1995) A reassessment of using light-sensitive diazo paper for measuring integrated light in the field. Ecology 76, 1013-1016.

Friend DT (1961) A simple method of measuring integrated light values in the field. Ecology 42, 577-580.

Hikosaka K, Nagashima H, Harada Y, Hirose T (2001) A simple formulation of interaction between individuals competing for light in a monospecific stand. Functional Ecology 15, 642-646.

Kawamura K, Cho M, Takeda H (2005) The applicability of a color acetate film for estimating photosynthetic photon flux density in a forest understory. Journal of Forest Research 10, 247-249.

Onoda Y, Hirose T, Hikosaka K (2007) Effect of elevated CO2levels on leaf starch, nitrogen and photosynthesis of plants growing at three natural CO2springs in Japan. Ecological Research 22, 475-484.

Osada N, Onoda Y, Hikosaka K (2010) Effects of atmospheric CO2concentration, irradiance, and soil nitrogen availability on leaf photosynthetic traits of Polygonum sachalinense around natural CO2springs in northern Japan. Oecologia:in press.

Osada N, Takeda H, Furukawa A, Awang M (2001) Leaf dynamics and maintenance of tree crowns in a Malaysian rain forest stand. Journal of Ecology 89, 774-782.

Osada N, Takeda H, Furukawa A, Awang M (2002) Ontogenegic changes in leaf phenology of a canopy species, Elateriospermum tapos (Euphorbiaceae), in a Malaysian rain forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology 18, 91-105.

Osada N, Tateno R, Hyodo F, Takeda H. (2004a) Changes in crown architecture with tree height in two deciduous tree species: developmental constraints or plastic response to the competition for light Forest Ecology and Management 188, 337-347.

Osada N, Tateno R, Mori A, Takeda H (2004b) Changes in crown development patterns and current-year shoot structure with light environment and tree height in Fagus crenata (Fagaceae). American Journal of Botany 91, 1981-1989.

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